Greetings from Alumni: Juho Ranta-Aho, Vice President, Legal Leasing, AerCap, Dublin
17 May 2022
This time in our Greetings from Alumni series, we interview Juho Ranta-Aho, who currently works as a vice president, legal leasing at AerCap in Dublin. Juho’s international career has taken him all the way to Singapore and London and now to Dublin. During his time at Hannes between 2002 and 2007, Juho worked as a trainee and as an associate in our Finance Team.
Hi Juho, how has your spring been in Dublin?
Hello! And greetings from Ireland! The land of eternal rain. They say it is always green here because of the rain and that there are no snakes in Ireland. Well, I say you are right about the first point and as regards the second one, if there had been any snakes here, they would have drowned by now. :) But seriously, it has not been that bad. After two long years of COVID and probably five different lockdowns, life has started to return to what it once was and the world has started to reopen. That is amazing. We have also returned to the office here, but luckily with some hybrid arrangements (although not as flexible as what Hannes provides, I hear. Well done guys!). Of course, the horrible events unfolding in Eastern Europe right now have obviously made the spring extremely busy on the work front but apart from that, I would like to say life is good.
You work as a vice president / legal counsel at AerCap, a global leader in aircraft leasing. Could you share what is included in your daily work and main tasks?
Following the acquisition of GE’s aircraft leasing business (or as we lovingly call it, GECAS) late last year, AerCap became the largest aircraft leasing company in the world. In a nutshell, we own over 2,000 aircraft, 900 aircraft engines, and 300 helicopters, which we lease to over 300 airlines across the world. We are also active in aircraft trading, which involves the sale and purchase of aircraft to and from our clients. I work at our headquarters in Dublin as a member of the Legal Leasing Team. We have approximately 30 lawyers in the company spread across the regions. AerCap’s Dublin lawyers are responsible for the airlines located in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. I personally have about 15 airlines that I am responsible for and with whom I liaise with on daily basis. Basically, my job consists of structuring transactions, preparing all documentation for leasing of the aircraft and / or engines, amendments to the existing structures, and so on. I am also involved with aircraft finance transactions to the extent they involve my clients, and that is where my previous finance background is very helpful. In addition, sometimes you also have to engage in some litigation or recovery activities, if all else fails. As you may have noticed, the recent years have not been kind to the airline / travel industry, but purely from a work perspective, it certainly has been interesting. As they say, lawyers are busy when times are good, but lawyers are really busy when times are bad.
What I like about AerCap’s Legal Team is that it is like Hannes (or even A&O), just in a slightly smaller scale. We do as much as possible internally, so you get to do plenty of drafting. And you get plenty of responsibility. The work is quite independent, so your boss is definitely not looking over your shoulders and you need to try to keep the balls in the air and not hit the ground. But you still have the support from and interaction with your legal and other colleagues as and when needed. I like that. Very few days are like each other and things can change fast.
Your career has taken you to different countries; you have worked in Helsinki, London, Singapore, and Dublin. Have you done some active career planning or how have these international opportunities come to you?
I wish I could say there has always been some master plan behind all this but sadly, that is not the case here. Life has taken me onwards and to different countries purely by coincidence and by opportunities. The only one planned was my first job abroad straight after Hannes, Allen & Overy in London. And even that one landed on me quite unexpectedly. I can only thank Hannes for that one. After A&O, it has been more like someone reaching out to me and asking the typical question along the lines “I might have something that might interest you. Would you be keen to hear more and discuss?” That is how headhunters work.
Many law students and graduated lawyers alike dream about working abroad. What tips would you give to lawyers who would like to work abroad?
Ah, I love and hate this question in equal terms. Loving it because you get to preach and, let’s face it, what lawyer does not like to preach? And hating it because when someone asks you this question, it makes you feel, well, to use the same terminology that I once used to my former, more senior colleagues at Hannes, you are so over the hill that you cannot even see the hill anymore. But here is my list:
- Think carefully as to why you want to go abroad. You need to get this clear in your head before you set the wheels in motion. Remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. And then, forget about four-week holidays in June / July. Only in Scandinavia…
- After you have tackled the hurdle of deciding to go, then don’t be afraid to do it. When I left Hannes to join A&O in London, I was so scared that I was practically wetting my pants. It actually makes me laugh in hindsight. I will tell you now what my former colleague at Hannes told me before I left Finland: You will be fine! Working at Hannes will have given you all the ammunition you need to tackle whatever life abroad throws at you. As the Nike ad says: just do it!
- Getting the first job abroad is the hardest one. Once you have achieved this, the world is your oyster. Never be afraid to use whatever contacts you have: Talk to your friends or former colleagues (and Hannes alumni) who have already made the move, reach out to lawyers in law firms abroad you currently work with at Hannes, ask for secondment options from partners at Hannes. Speak to headhunters. And do not choose a job because it is in London, New York, or in another “cool” location. Choose it because it is something it seems or sounds you may really want to do.
- If you have tackled 1 and 2 above and you have got your job abroad, but then you get a crude awakening and realise that the job is not what you imagined it would be or you end up having a boss from hell, then do not be afraid of voting with your feet. No one gets this always right and sometimes people make mistakes. Or people choose on the basis of the wrong premise. Learn from your mistakes. I have seen people cracking under pressure or because of long hours and I have found people crying in the dark corner of their offices on Christmas Eve. I will tell you right now that no job is worthy of your tears.
- One guy at one of my previous employers finished the farewell email to the firm with the words “May the bridges I burn today be seen far and wide”. As unforgettable ending as that may be and no matter how enticed you might be to say that every now and then, do not do it. Not a good idea. You do not know where you meet these people again. The world can be a surprisingly small place after all. And no profession loves to talk as much as lawyers. :) Leave the place so that you can go back if that is you want to do in the future.
- Think if / when you want to return home. The longer you stay away, the harder it might be to go back.
During your time at Hannes between 2002 and 2007, you worked as a trainee and as an associate in our Finance Team. What was the most valuable learning you took with you when you moved forward from Hannes?
“Take a seat and watch what I do”. This is how Henkka Mattson taught me to draft a loan agreement. And he certainly did teach me that. I will never forget those lessons. Ever. But I learned so much at Hannes. It was my first job after having finished law school, and I think it set the benchmark for all the jobs after that. I think it was also the most fun place I have ever worked at, not to mention with the best people in the business. But I think the most important things that I learned at Hannes were asking if you are not sure, being kind to your colleagues, and not forgetting to have some fun whilst at work.
Could you also share your favourite Hannes memory?
There are so many, but to name a few:
- Organising “kossu-leapfrog” at one Hannes summer party. I still have some compromising video footage from this event. Never forget this for as long as I live.
- Maffe’s camel song at many, many Hannes summer parties.
- The current Managing Partner Riikka once sent me to hold a client’s hand when the client had to deposit a check worth of about one million at Nordea (redemption sort of event). The client had the check and we made it to the bank at the eleventh hour. At the counter, the nice Nordea lady told us that the client could not deposit his check unless and until he pays Nordea a EUR 5 service fee. The client turned to me and said “Juho, do you have any money with you, all I have is this lousy check”. There was some serious falling from the chair laughter after that question. And to give credit where it’s due, next morning when I went to my office, Riikka had left me a EUR 5 note and a thank you note.
- Friday beers at Belge.
One theme that currently stands out in working life discussions is purpose at work. Could you share what are the things that keep you going and motivated at work — what is your purpose?
Whoa, what is the meaning of life. This is getting deep now. To be honest, no idea. But I guess what keeps me motivated at work are the great people I get to work with. Having some fun. Life is short and cruel things happen all the time. But if you get to do what you like to do with the people you like, it makes all the difference. There has to be some fun in life and whether we like it or not, our jobs take up a big part of our lives. Focus on the good stuff, do not dwell on the unpleasant moments and try to find the right balance between work and life outside work.
To conclude this interview, we would like to ask one working culture related question. If a Finnish lawyer, British lawyer, Irish lawyer, and Singaporean lawyer worked together on a case, based on your experience, what would happen?
Hah, this sounds like a poor man’s version of the Snow White and Seven Dwarves. Without the Snow White, of course: she decided to ditch this party the moment she arrived. But throw some American and Australian lawyers in the mix and you will have AerCap’s Legal Offsite. You have the prankster, the diplomat, the grumpy one, the prude and proper and so on. Whatever the outcome might be, it will not be a boring journey.
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